LEXINGTON, Ky. (LEX 18) — Nurses nationwide are battling COVID-19 fatigue and burnout.
Many have even left the profession or considered it because of the tough physical and emotional toll. On Tuesday morning, Baptist Health Emergency Room Manager Brandy Hensley had four COVID-19 patients in her unit.
"It's maybe slowed down for the outside public view, but it's still very much real, and we're still very much dealing with it every day in the ER," said Hensley.
Hensley says COVID-19 fatigue has slammed her nurses, hitting them both physically and mentally.
"The exhaustion. It's unmeasurable, because you're doing that for 12 hours and it's hard to get breaks in. It's hard to get outside to kind of do some self care," she said.
It's been so exhausting that some nurses have decided they couldn't take it anymore.
"We had many who decided to move on and go into a different area where they weren't the frontline profession. We also had some that retired early," said Hensley.
The Kentucky Nurses Association says nurses have been leaving the profession nationwide, burnt out by the pandemic.
"I think that nurses are experiencing mental fatigue. They are tired, they have not been able to save as many people as they want to save, they have not been able to have a lot of the interactions that make nursing gratifying, in terms of communicating with families and patients," said CEO Delanor Manson.
Baptist Health and UK Health Care don't have specific numbers but both have had nurses leave over the past year.
At Baptist Health, many went to veteran nurse Karen Hill for advice, who is also Chief Nursing Officer.
"One of the things that we've tried to do is to try to offer support to those who are caring for the patients within the COVID units. We've had some counselors that have been available for them. Peer support has been important and the staff have supported each other. And I think that's really important," said Hill.
To care for the caretakers, Baptist Health is encouraging nurses to take time off and celebrate them on Tuesday with a carnival themed appreciation.
"One of the things that we want them to help remember is why they became a nurse, because that reminds you of the joy that you had when you accepted this job," said Hill.
They all say a simple thank you can go a long way and could even be just what a nurse needs to hear to keep going.
"Just taking the time to say thank you for what you're doing and checking on friends, families, co-workers checking in on them and asking them how they're really doing. Is there anything, you know, that they need, is really the biggest thing," said Hensley.
May is Nurse Appreciation Month.